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Researchers are urging for the safeguarding of areas on the moon that have the potential to enhance the field of astronomy.

Researchers are urging for the safeguarding of areas on the moon that have the potential to enhance the field of astronomy.

Astronomers are urgently advocating for the safeguarding of specific locations on the moon that have been deemed the most ideal areas in the solar system for sophisticated instruments intended to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

These optimal locations are devoid of ground motion, protected from Earth’s disruptive broadcasting signals, and extremely frigid, making them exceptionally suitable for delicate equipment that may be unable to gather observations from other sites.

However, the untouched areas, designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), are at risk of destruction from upcoming ventures such as missions to the moon, satellite systems for navigation and communication, rovers, and mining endeavors. Experts cautioned on Monday that it is crucial to protect these valuable sites as a matter of urgency.

Dr. Martin Elvis, an astronomer at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, stated that this is the initial moment for humanity to make the decision on how to expand into the solar system. He emphasizes that unique chances to comprehend the universe are at risk of being lost.

Reworked: By late 2026, approximately 22 international expeditions are predicted to land on the moon, with half of them targeting locations near the southern pole. This number is expected to increase as commercial and civil landers join in. Additionally, two moon bases are projected to become functional in the 2030s, one owned by the US and the other by China and Russia.

The researchers state that without a coordinating authority, there is a potential for future conflicts on the moon. These conflicts could stem from physical crashes and the disturbance of dust clouds due to lunar activities, as well as vibrations, electromagnetic interference, and harm to sites caused by drilling and other operations.

Twenty years ago, the idea of conducting astronomy on the moon seemed like nothing more than a far-fetched fantasy. However, nowadays, researchers have solidified plans for different instruments, with the potential for some to be set up on the lunar surface before the end of the decade. These instruments encompass various types such as optical, infra-red, X-ray, and radio telescopes, as well as particle detectors to study the solar wind and cosmic rays, along with gravitational wave detectors to detect slight vibrations in space-time caused by the collision of black holes and neutron stars.

The side of the moon facing away from Earth is known for its lack of radio interference, making it an ideal location for radio telescopes to study the cosmic dark ages and search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. However, due to its rugged terrain, there are currently only three identified areas where large telescopes could be constructed. One of these sites, called Mare Moscoviense, is rich in helium-3, a valuable resource being targeted for mining by the American company Interlune for use in quantum computing and fusion energy applications.

There are other significant locations on the moon called crater bases, located at the north and south poles, that have been protected from direct sunlight for billions of years. These areas, known as “cold traps”, are extremely cold and some of the coldest places in the universe. They are well-suited for large infrared telescopes which require temperatures below -200C to function. With these telescopes, we could potentially observe and capture images of planets the size of Earth orbiting stars in far-off galaxies, and perhaps even detect evidence of life in their atmospheres.

The astronomers are interested in preserving specific areas on the moon known as cold traps, which are located in regions with little seismic activity. These spots are well-suited for gravitational wave detectors capable of detecting extremely subtle movements, up to 1,000 times smaller than an atomic nucleus. One proposal is to install seismometers in cold traps to observe the moon’s trembling when gravitational waves travel through.

In their publication in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, Elvis and Dr. Alanna Krolikowski, a political scientist at Missouri University of Science and Technology, stated that the use of Sesis has the potential for significant advancements in astronomical research. However, they cautioned that these locations are scarce and delicate.

Certain cold traps may contain frozen water as well as being in close proximity to “peaks of eternal light” such as rim and ridge craters that receive sunlight throughout the year, making them ideal locations for scientific investigations, lunar colonies, and resource mining that require access to power, water, and oxygen. Elvis stated, “The possibility of conflicting interests for the usage of these areas is quite high.”

The researchers warn that satellite constellations serving as communication and GPS systems on the moon could disrupt telescope observations, and the use of large rovers and mining robots may cause dust and vibrations that impede delicate experiments.

Elvis expressed surprise at the sudden visibility of the Starlink satellites, and discussed the effect that Elon Musk’s mega-constellations have on the darkness of the night sky. He emphasized the importance of organizing and advocating for designated protection zones on the moon.

Source: theguardian.com